Research in Science Education

, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 1395–1413 | Cite as

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Modelling-Oriented Workshops for Engineering Undergraduates in the Field of Thermally Activated Phenomena

  • Onofrio Rosario Battaglia
  • Benedetto Di Paola
  • Dominique Persano Adorno
  • Nicola Pizzolato
  • Claudio FazioEmail author


Two 20-h modelling-based workshops focused on the explanation of thermally activated phenomena were held at the University of Palermo, Italy, during the Academic Year 2014–2015. One of them was conducted by applying an inquiry-based approach, while the other, still based on laboratory and modelling activities, was not focused on inquiry. Seventy-two students belonging to the Undergraduate Program for Chemical Engineering attended the two workshops. The related content was focused on an à la Feynman unifying approach to thermally activated phenomena. Questionnaires were administered to the students of both groups, before and post instruction. Responses were analysed using k-means cluster analysis and students’ inferred lines of reasoning about the description and explanation of phenomena were studied in both groups. We find that both workshops can be considered effective in improving student’s reasoning skills. However, the inquiry-based approach revealed to be more effective than the traditional one in helping students to build mechanisms of functioning and explicative models and to identify common aspects in apparently different phenomena.


Inquiry-Based Science Education Feynman’s unifying approach Thermally activated phenomena Cluster analysis Evaluation 

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UOP_PERG (University of Palermo Physics Education Research Group), Dipartimento di Fisica e ChimicaUniversità degli Studi di PalermoPalermoItaly
  2. 2.GRIM (Mathematics Education Research Group), Dipartimento di Matematica e InformaticaUniversità degli Studi di PalermoPalermoItaly

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